June 16, 2005
Columbia, S.C. - The South Carolina Gamecock softball team experienced a season of challenges in 2005, as the Gamecocks recorded a 28-28-1 season, the first ever .500 record in program history. Season ending injuries to two starting pitchers dealt a huge blow to the rotation. In addition, introducing nine freshmen to the collegiate level of softball proved to be quite an adjustment for the Gamecocks.
Despite the obstacles, USC was able to garner several highlights during the season. A sign of carrying the torch from the past to the future can be seen in the comparisons and accolades of senior Meghan Cornett and freshman Jessica Josker. The two battled back and forth in hitting percentage to lead the team through out the year. In the end, the two ended in a tie as they both hit .363 for the season. This marked the highest batting average for an individual since Kim Pietro hit .419 in 1999.
Josker led the team in hits with 70 followed by Cornett with 62. These two players were the only players to record over 60 hits, a first since Cornett posted 61 her freshman year. Josker's 70 hits were the first for a Gamecock since Chanda Lee in 1997 and the first for a freshman since Tine Plew in 1994. Josker is one of only three Gamecock freshmen to record at least 70 hits.
With the loss of starters Melanie Henkes and freshman Jessica Barnes, the USC pitching staff relied heavily on freshman Kate Pouliot and senior Aleca Johnson. In a combined 29 appearances, Henkes and Barnes totaled a 14-7 record while Johnson and Pouliot produced a 14-21 record in 54 appearances.
The Gamecocks faced 13 teams that advanced to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City in 2005: Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Southern Illinois, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Auburn, Massachusetts, Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Michigan. Three of those 13 teams made it to the WCWS including the eventual national champion Michigan Wolverines.
Despite an 11-16 SEC record, USC went 17-12 -1 against non-conference opponents. Among those victories, the Gamecocks posted wins over WCWS participants Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Southern Illinois, UMass and Mississippi State.
Even with a struggling season, USC advanced to the SEC Tournament and extended its appearance streak to nine years, becoming one of four teams to advance every year since its inception in 1997. However, the Gamecocks' NCAA Tournament streak was snapped at six when USC did not receive a bid this year.
The 2005 season also bids farewell to seniors Kristin Hall, Aleca Johnson and Meghan Cornett. During their four years, these three seniors compiled a 143-92-1 record, four SEC Tournament appearances and three NCAA Tournament berths.
Kristin Hall finished her career with a .203 batting average in 138 games played. Hall was named to the 2003 NCAA Tournament All-Regional team in Tucson, Ariz. during her sophomore year and she was a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection.
Pitcher Aleca Johnson will go down as USC's all-time leader in career saves with 18. Johnson was a 2002 All-Regional Tournament selection and posted a 25-19 career record. She closes her career with a 2.03 ERA.
Cornett became the first Gamecock to play and start every game of her career. A second team All-SEC selection, Cornett was also a two-time SEC Good Works Team selection, an SEC Academic Honor Roll selection and a 2002 All-Regional team selection. Cornett also finished her career with 18 home runs tying her for third among USC's all-time leaders. With 217 career hits, she also ranks ninth all-time and with 40 career doubles, she ranks sixth all-time. Her 109 RBI puts her seventh all-time.
As a team, USC finished the season with a .257 batting average and 385 hits, including 32 home runs. With the home runs, it marks the fourth straight year the Gamecocks have hit over 30 long balls and it is the third most home runs hit by USC in a single season.
2005 South Carolina SB honors:
Meghan Cornett, SEC Player of the Week (week ending March 13); Second Team All-SEC, Good Works Team honoree, NFCA Lead-off Classic All-Tournament Team, SEC Academic Honor Roll selection
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